Staying a Step Ahead in a Cookieless Future with First-Party Data

May 15, 2023
Autotrader, and ESNTIAL Teams

As the majority of us know, there are really big benefits to both having and collecting first-party data for your business. Think of your contacts, your customers, your leads, your website, your insights, your predictions… Everything that you have been collecting since the day your doors first opened and website went live at your dealership. 

Your revenue sits in that first-party data. Or more importantly the strategy tied to it. And you can unlock many benefits and advantages by learning new ways of how to activate that data. Especially with a cookieless future quickly approaching on the horizon. In an ever-shifting automotive industry and world, your first-party data will help you stay a step ahead. 

When it comes to your business and marketing goals, it’s essential to understand and map out where your dealership or brand is today, and where you’ve set your sites on going. Data can and should be a leading driver to help you successfully do this.  

So together, let’s take a closer look at how your activated data can help you stand out to your ideal customer in your marketing efforts, mix-match-modernize your strategy, and help you map out your step by step as digital retailing and our industry bridges towards an eCommerce future.  

It’s time to re-strategize how you’re activating your dealership’s data 

Part of activating your data is interpreting and acting on the insights, especially when it comes to what your consumer wants, needs and prefers. However, your existing methods of activating your first-party data don’t quite work the same way anymore.  

It’s time to revamp your strategy to accommodate the changing landscape of the industry and connect to new shopper insights.    

Educate and Demonstrate: Remember, how we do business, where we do business and who we do business with has and will continue to shift. You need to make sure that your marketing strategy includes educating and demonstrating to the consumer you have the cars, service, experience and capabilities they want and are willing to show them how to use them.  

Some of these consumers will be existing customers, but they might need reminders of how your business has evolved. And some of these consumers will be part of the heightened 56% of cross-shopping auto buyers who are open to and entertaining a different brand and type of car. Educate and demonstrate the advantages of doing business with you and what makes your brand the one they should choose. They’re new and haven’t had the first-hand experience yet, so give them the virtual experience and highlight hallmark values and experiences your brand offers. 

Communicate the Way Tthey Prefer: If you’re not communicating the way your consumer prefers, you are definitely missing out on business and probably losing some of your current customers. This year’s Cox Automotive annual Car Buyer Journey Study revealed that for the two growing segments of in-market auto shoppers, their preferences for communication steer them towards who they ultimately decide to do business with. 

And what they prefer when it comes to communication is ease, a frictionless experience, and in their preferred method. For many that means texts, having chat available on your site, and instant buttons so they can quickly complete their desired actions. 

Shifting Parts or All of the Car-Buying Process Online: Both of the growing segments of auto shoppers surveyed in the 2022 Car Buyer Journey Study said they prefer to buy online – with 75% of them saying within the next 5 years they would buy a vehicle entirely online. They’re a growing target, currently completing 10 out of 13 of the purchase steps online. 

It’s an Amazon buying world. Consumers are open to and moving toward being more comfortable with buying high ticket items online, like cars, predominately online as well. Look at what you currently offer with your digital retailing tools and map out what steps you still need to go towards a fully eCommerce future. We have a few suggestions and items to consider when doing that below! 

Rome was not built in a day, but it was built brick by brick. And so should your digital marketing strategy – lean the most on your first-party data to be your bedrock foundation and the digital retailing tools you have supporting, feeding and connecting your customers to what they want and need.  

It’s time to gear up for the new speed of retail 

Digital retailing tools continue to grow and expand how auto dealers do business and plan their marketing strategies. This digital foundation was laid in our industry during the pandemic with the goal of a better shopping experience. As satisfaction levels continue to likewise grow with the online experience, so should your focus on adding more digital retail solutions and capabilities as well as connecting them with your first-party data to help drive your business. 

Did you know 70% of shopper are more likely to buy 

From a dealer if they can start the process online?*  

The new speed of retail is here, and shoppers expect a streamlined, digital experience. So, to help you meet them where they are, it’s important to take a look at where you are

Whether your dealership is on the low end of the eCommerce spectrum only offering a few digital retailing tools, or are fully automated and full-spectrum eCommerce ready, there are distinct advantages to mixing, matching and modernizing your digital retail strategy. And first-party data should be the core pillar of how you’re connecting it all and moving forward, especially in a cookieless future. 

As we touched on before, by alleviating your consumer’s pain points, and activating your first-party data with personalization, you’ll have the ability to not only stand out to your ideal customer and retain existing customers, but you’ll also have the ability to improve your customer’s experience in the following ways reported in the annual 2022 Car Buyer Journey Study. In a cookieless future this is where your revenue will have the ability to grow. 

In-market auto shoppers and buyers reported the following satisfaction levels and advantages with transacting online: 

  • 88% – Save time at the dealership  
  • 86% – Save time with the buying / leasing process 
  • 83% – Seamlessness of continuing the online buying transaction in store where they left off 
  • 81% – Improved the overall buying experience 
  • 78% – Greater transparency with pricing 

By connecting your first-party data to your existing and future digital retail tools, you’ll not only give your consumers what they’re looking for, but you’ll set yourself up for increased exposure and reach, the ability to turn vehicles more quickly, increase your opportunities for acquisition and inventory and close more deals. More specifically… profitable deals! 

Automotive digital retailing vs. eCommerce: What’s the difference?  

There is often confusion when it comes to the differences between digital retailing and ecommerce. While they both start online, that’s where the similarities both begin and end.  

Digital retailing helps guide the overall experience for your shopper and saves time for both you and the consumer. Your customers can easily navigate and engage with your website during different stages of their purchasing journey.  

Digital retailing: Largely supported by a person at your dealership: There are many steps that digital retailing can connect. For example, the consumer starts the deal online and can take it to a credit app submission, sometimes even a credit decision, but at that point dealership personnel will need to engage with the consumer to walk them through the deal. So, while technology plays a big role, the process is largely supported by a person in the dealership. 

ECommerce: A fully digital transaction: On the other hand, eCommerce also begins with the consumer starting the deal online. But the key difference is that a consumer can take a self-paced fashion, working through the deal all the way through digitally signing the contract package and scheduling the delivery of the vehicle. The process is also supported by F&I automation primarily, not dealership personnel. Most dealerships have dedicated eCommerce teams who solely focus on these end-to-end online transactions. 

If adding an ecommerce channel isn’t feasible in the near future, digital retailing can still satisfy those digitally savvy shoppers. Consumer research confirms that not every consumer wants the same results from their online experience. In fact, 9 out of 10* prefer a flexible, personalized buying experience. Make it simple for customers to explore the information they are comfortable researching (inventory, trade-in values, financing terms/payments, F&I products) and move the process to the dealership when they are ready. 

Aside from leveraging digital retail and ecommerce solutions to provide seamless transitions between digital and physical interactions, training your entire team (not just your BDC) on switching between online and offline interactions goes a long way. You’ll see increased confidence, improved satisfaction and the consumer will appreciate this more personalized and efficient way of doing business. 

For the road forward 

A cookieless future isn’t as worrisome when you put your first-party data to use. By revisiting your current marketing strategy, mixing-matching-modernizing your digital retailing tools to connect them to your data, and planning everything your dealership does from the top down on how you’ll grow your eCommerce business, you’ll stay a step ahead of your competitors and align your dealership for success in the future. 

As technology continues to evolve, activating first-party data is essential for every auto dealer, whether your business is brick-and-mortar or strictly eCommerce. You’ll gain insights into consumer behavior and preferences, improve customer experience, and optimize your marketing campaigns and dollars.  

It’s time to start shifting from just collecting first-party data to activating and connecting it. Because when you do, you’ll quickly see the difference it can make for your business to increase conversions and your profits. 

Autotrader provides you with qualified leads for people who want cars. We have the data that connects and activates your data, and we have the shoppers. We know what they want, and our goal is to match them with our dealer partners, driving quality leads and delivering a 35% higher gross profit on average. We connect you with customers virtually, to move shoppers to you, so that you can focus on building and letting your brand shine. 

Cox Automotive has the most connected and comprehensive view of the automotive industry and offers unmatched data and insights into consumer behavior, automotive trends, and operational best practices. Whatever your goals, we can help you get there faster to stay a step ahead and successful in today’s marketplace.  

Want to hear all the ways to fully activate your first party data? Sign up to attend live 5/18 or catch the replay of a unique webinar opportunity with Automotive News hosted by Jade Terreberry and Noah Lee. They’ll share examples of actions you should take now, and outline strategies successful dealerships and OEMs are implementing to make the most of your marketing efforts and dollars. Register for the webinar.